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problem with colleague, want to be more resilient/tougher

(27 Posts)
ManyBlessings Wed 29-Oct-14 10:32:11

Feeling utterly deflated and vulnerable today. I have started a new job and love it. Wonderful colleagues, friendly place to live (we are new in the country). Just one recurring/mounting problem. I have a colleague who has been 'off' with me from the start and things came to a head yesterday when she was quite aggressive twice in comments. I am new and finding my feet and really working very hard, and I've been in this sort of work for a long time so consider myself experienced and competent. I'm at the top of the career ladder (if that means anything!). The comment that really floored me yesterday was, when I asked advice (and I try not to lean on her if I can) she responded' I've told you this 27 times'. I don't think she has, but even so it was the tone and aggression - I don' t remember ever being spoken to in the workplace like this, felt infantilised and was completely wordless. Just crawled away. I think I am quite a soft person and my great failing is in some ways that I really want too much to be liked. I don't know what to do to make myself a little tougher. I don't think I can do much about the immediate situation apart from some avoidance but I wish I could be a little less affected by this sort of thing. Trying really hard to see things from her perpsective. I have a feeling she might feel undermined by my arrival as she is early in her career, she is quite unwell so may be the pain etc is not helping, I think part of her self identity is that she is a bit of a bruiser and may not mean it personally, but on the other hand I think I am a classic candidate for bullying, aggression. I never ever answer back or confront and am a conflict avoider but I really need advice about how to toughen up? I am sitting sobbing at my desk today feeling really broken which is terrible as I have every reason to be happy, grateful and thanksful for a very good life and all my luck.

soundsystem Wed 29-Oct-14 10:38:20

She sounds charming!

I found this book quite useful: www.amazon.co.uk/Be-Bulletproof-achieve-success-tough-ebook/dp/B007D15HIE They run courses as well, I went to one to see if it was something that might be useful to my organisation and was really sceptical but actually found it helpful. It's bascially mindfulness - changing the way you choose to respond to things. It all sounds pretty obvious and if you're at the top of your career you might find it a bit patronising but I was surprised how much it made me adjust how I reacted to certain situations.

Hope things get better x

Hatespiders Wed 29-Oct-14 10:43:19

So sorry ManyBlessings that you're having this problem with the nasty colleague. I too when I worked as a teacher met the occasional cow!

Now the first thing to do is to stop sitting at your desk sobbing. That won't get you anywhere and you must get a grip. Being 'soft' is an open invitation to bullies and cows to have a good go at you. A much better strategy is to be strong (I know, but you must!) and stand up straight and confront the woman. Once you do, and with feeling, the bully will back down rapidly, they always do.
If she's nasty again, draw yourself up, look her right in the eyes and say, "I BEG your pardon??" This often works wonders. If she repeats the abusive tone, reply immediately (eg "You haven't told me anything 27 times, don't be ridiculous!" or "As you well know, I'm new here and I was expecting some initial help from you.")
If she continues (nasty piece of work that she is) then the next step is to go to your immediate superior and report it. They'll be wise to take action because lack of assistance by a colleague has an impact on the work. You need some initial support, that's all, and you're entitled to it.

Now dry your eyed, wipe your nose and GO FOR IT! Everyone on here will be right behind you.
Good luck!

fabricfreeshiner Wed 29-Oct-14 11:05:27

It is a hard one how about " Have you? 27 times? Really?" hmm You aren't being rude but you are questioning them. Another good one that works on any situation is "Can you say that again please?" Question them every single time they are rude to you. You aren't being rude, but you are being assertive!

Sadly, life experience has meant I no longer care what anyone says due to way too much verbal abuse thrown at me over the years! I do stand up for myself. It has made me tougher but I also am not very emotional or trusting either. I think a balance of tough yet caring is best!

Good luck in your new job!

LadyLuck10 Wed 29-Oct-14 11:20:38

The only way is to not let the comments continue. Tackle it head on, when she makes a comment pull her up on it then and there. Sitting and crying at your desk won't help you one bit. If you fail to get through to her, next speak to hr/ manager.

ManyBlessings Wed 29-Oct-14 11:42:59

Hatespiders, I think you are a legend in your time - 'you must get a grip'! Spoken like a true teacher, and now I've gone from sobbing to laughing. Thanks so much for the support, all of you, you have no idea how much it has helped this morning. Will definitely get the book and also you are quite right, ordering it now in fact. I need to be prepared to repel this rather than trying to avoid as supect I will be sought out sometimes for a little kicking (which is how it felt). I am right though that this seems bullying and aggressive right? In situations like this you feel like you're crap and over reacting and start to doubt your judgment.

biggles50 Wed 29-Oct-14 12:16:34

If you're new to the country it can make you feel vulnerable because there's a feeling that you aren't sure of the rules. I'd echo what the others have said. 27 times? Really? Now if you could just have the courtesy to explain this to me and I'll try not to bother you again as I can see it irritates you.

SuperFlyHigh Wed 29-Oct-14 13:38:00

You could quite easily say back to her:-

"I don't like your tone or your manner when you speak to me, I'm new here, sorry you feel you've said it 27 times but I am still learning".

I would then if she is still rude maybe speak to HR too.

Fight fire with fire I would. This is after years of being bullied and not standing up for myself. Just grit your teeth and stand up. Don't be rude, be civil but don't take any shit. Believe me this woman if she was spoken to the way she spoke to you, she'd certainly have words to say or she may be a coward who'd be cowed and not speak up!

SuperFlyHigh Wed 29-Oct-14 13:38:49

Also, if you do feel upset, teary or whatever then go for a walk, coffee, toilet break, anything to take your mind off it. Text a friend.

We've all been there being teary. it isn't nice.

littlewoollypervert Wed 29-Oct-14 14:02:59

Next time you have to ask her anything (separately to pulling her up on the tone/aggression), make sure it is about something completely new so that she has to answer you, and she can't say she's told you before.

When she is telling you the answer, make sure you take a note of it (and that she sees you doing so).

Do this every time you have a query. If she ever says again that she has told you something before, you can reply "Actually you haven't, I spent 10 mins checking back through my notes before I asked you." You could also add "I wouldn't want to waste your time" with big innocent eyes, if you feel up to being delightfully passive aggressive!

If the whole situation escalates (which, hopefully, given the great advice above, it won't) you will have your notes as proof you weren't asking the same questions repeatedly.

You can also add in to your notes the exact wording she uses if she gets snarky and you can include specific details of her behaviour - e.g. Asked D could she update me on X new process. She rolled her eyes and sighed loudly before replying. She said to me "How come you don't understand this yet" - she is aware it is my first time using this process.

Be really specific and objective on the behavioural stuff - keep it just to what anyone could observe
- she rolled her eyes
- she tutted loudly in front of the client
- she turned her back on me
- she folded her arms after throwing her pen down on the desk

rather than ascribing motives/feelings
- she looked angry
- she didn't want to help
- her body language was hostile

(if you get into judgements about motive/mood it is very easy for the other person to say it is all in your mind)

Hatespiders Wed 29-Oct-14 14:22:14

My old neighbour, a very wise, feisty (and supportive) Norfolk woman used to say to me, "Now stop sitting there a-snottin' and a-snivellin'!" I loved that expression, but it's a bit cruel when you're upset so I didn't use it in my post.
Hope you're feeling a bit tougher and less upset now. Best wishes for great success in this new job.

SuperFlyHigh Wed 29-Oct-14 14:36:30

Oh OP - I forgot - make sure you take notes but make sure she sees you (re what she's asked you to do).

and also what littlewoolly says too - this could be taken on board as bullying and even though you're new and technically have few rights you're on your probation period and surely she's meant to be training/helping you.

I'd also consider is there anyone else you can ask rather than this rude/sarky etc individual.

ManyBlessings Thu 30-Oct-14 09:00:23

Thank you all so much for the fanstatic support and practical advice. I have been thinking about your comments and resolving to take on board exactly the approach you recommend - no snivelling and a promise to myself to find the words to express calmly and clearly what I will not tolerate. Also, not to let this prey on my mind. I am going for a long walk now to look at the autumn leaves and lock her negativity and bitterness out of my head. Instead I will count and then recount all my blessings. Thanks so much again.

EATmum Thu 30-Oct-14 09:29:03

You might also want to tackle it head on and tell her, kindly, that you find her response surprising, and ask her if she's OK. An "I'm sorry, I seem to have upset you. That seemed such an odd response to my question. Is everything OK with you?" might help with the ongoing relationship. If nothing else, it makes it clear that hers is the attitude that's bizarre.

SuperFlyHigh Thu 30-Oct-14 09:32:12

ManyBlessings - you can PM me if you like. Often in cases like this it is the other person (eg her) who has the problem.

I think it is absolutely appalling the way she has treated a new member of staff, and I'd be sort of temped to run to HR but then it may not look great as you're so new. Good luck! flowers

Jewels234 Thu 30-Oct-14 09:37:03

I could have written your post from the 'being soft' perspective. I'm super sensitive, and have struggled in similar situations. Note down what she said and the date, so if it escalates you have something firm to go to HR with. No one should make you feel like this.

TeenageMutantNinjaTurtle Thu 30-Oct-14 09:37:13

I think the problem is that you won't think to pull her up on it at the time it happens. I'm always so surprised when someone speaks to me like that that I sort of go "oh, ok..." And only start to get cross about it when I get back to my desk.

So... I wouldn't wait for it to happen again. I'd pop over to her desk right now (when you've tidied up your face wink) and ask her for 10 mins of her time. Take her somewhere quiet, buy her a coffee or something and then ask her if she has a problem with you. Tell her you don't like being spoken to the way she did and you don't consider it necessary in a professional environment and ask what she would like to do about it as it can't go on. Then listen to what she says... It might not be about you at all....

WalkingInMemphis Thu 30-Oct-14 09:39:36

Sorry to the pp's but...I really dislike a lot of the responses you've had op.

Although they look great written down, very few people can manage witty comebacks in a workplace without making themselves look an utter tool.

I've not recently been transferred to a new department at work and have dealt with this type of thing recently. I'm very experienced in my industry and have gone in at a more senior level than many of the people who've been in this department years - but I'm still learning the actual procedures for this department. Cue lots of comments with the clear underlying tone of 'you should really know this'.

I think the only thing you need to try to do is appear un-fazed. Don't let it look like they've 'got' to you or they win. I probably would have just replied with 'Oh. Would rather I asked someone else?' I've perfected my blank couldn't-give-a-shit-what-you-think face. Lots of unbroken eye contact, with slightly raised eyebrows while I wait for their response. Unfailingly polite, every time.

SuperFlyHigh Thu 30-Oct-14 10:17:22

Teenage - I don't think the OP should pull her colleague up like that as you say... I think that could backfire badly and the colleague may say "I'm only training you etc".

No in these cases I'd go to HR.

Nanadookdookdook Thu 30-Oct-14 10:30:52

I think the problem when things like this happen is that you (or anyone) take it on personally.

So instead of thinking 'what a miserable cow/moo/git what the hell's the matter with her today' - which would be quite reasonable-

you think 'oh, no, why doesn't she like me', 'I'm trying to be pleasant and friendly', 'why do people dislike me boo hoo', 'I really want to work here and now I'll have to leave, sniff'

The problem is hers, she probably feels threatened - better-looking/ more popular/ cheerier new girl (you OP) is going to be more popular than me - or some such thing so she is being rude.

I think you tell yourself you are really, really lucky to have landed a job you like. You are here for the long term. Nothing is perfect. So her rude behaviour is going to wash off you like water off a duck's back.

Let's face it many people hate their jobs, you should count your blessings and continue being happy and friendly and ignore, ignore, ignore.

SuperFlyHigh Thu 30-Oct-14 12:05:56

Nanadook - you are so right - OP's colleague probably DOES feel threatened for whatever trivial reason (like my colleague/s did). You can't do anything about that either...

It's true being happy, friendly and ignore does work wonders...

BUT in this case if OP is still learning and needs to learn this evil cow of a colleague needs to train her and answer her queries!

I was lucky my evil colleague did train me it was just after that training she got nasty...

Meemoll Thu 30-Oct-14 12:53:08

Someone very wise once told me that in this situation it is never about you, it is always about them and their attitude. I find it helpful to just keep reminding myself, it's not about me, it's not about me. You just carry on being fab and don't worry about the negatives of this world.

DisgraceToTheYChromosome Thu 30-Oct-14 13:09:29

I find playing it completely deadpan works. Yesterday I was pulled up for not doing something that wasn't on the paperwork or mentioned at briefing.

"I have no memory of that conversation", repeated several times with a straight face did the trick. Plenty of huffing and eye-rolling, but as they say "they can't kill you or eat you, and if they can you're in wrong job".

ILovePud Thu 30-Oct-14 14:32:32

What a horrible situation, please don't let it taint your experience of the new job completely. Personally I'd just go with a long stare and keep my behaviour professional. I wouldn't give her any extra power by showing her that she's hurt you. Some people do just behave like twats but hopefully there's plenty of nice people at your work place, many of whom will also think she's a twat. She's an idiot to go round behaving like this, at some point she may need a favour from you or you may be in a position to help (or damage) her career.

whatever5 Thu 30-Oct-14 15:19:32

It is a horrible situation. I wouldn't speak to your colleague about it or discuss it with HR though. You could just make things worse. It is quite possible that your colleague is someone who gets in really bad moods and is most likely to take them out on people who don't know her very well. I have worked with a similar person and it made me quite paranoid when I first started to work in the office.

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